Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.

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Hipsterin’

In a strange culture, sometimes you just want to escape all the exotic, weird stuff and need the comfort of familiarity. And when rye bread is not an option and Ikea isn’t enough to satisfy the cravings for something other than China life, what to do? In Hong Kong, there’s Sheung Wan (and some random streets in different neighborhoods) to the rescue.

Kapok in Sun Street
Kapok in Sun Street

Luckily there are few nifty places to go in Wan Chai (mainly the small strip of Sun Street and the surroundings), but most of the cool stuff I have found is elsewhere.
 

Creative street art/promotion for Secret Ingredient
Creative street art/promotion for SecretIngredient.com

 

Sheung Wan, west from Central, is a neighborhood filled with art galleries, pop-up stores and cool cafes, where hipsters flock for brunch on the weekends. Ice drip coffee is not unheard of, and most of the coffee places also sell some small designer stuff. All the international restaurants are nearby in Soho, Sheung Wan is more concentrated on some quality cafes/restaurants with quirky interior and fancy menus.

Common Ground, the place to be
Common Ground is the place to be, even for hipster babies

 

What I like about Sheung Wan the most is the cool decors, overall vibe and appreciation for uniqueness. And apparently there’s some kind of launch party/gallery opening/random happening every week – you just have to know where to go when!

Inviting entrance
Inviting entrance

 

The areas near Sheung Wan MTR (subway) station are dedicated to dried seafood, bird’s nests, and other Traditional Chinese medicine shops: my rough and random estimation is, that there’s easily over 100 different shops selling smelly, odd stuff.

This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong
This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong

 
So, when one wishes to explore the area where one can order made-to order aeropress coffee rather than shark’s fin soup, there are some steps to be climbed. Perhaps the altitude change and stairs are the reason why upper part of Sheung Wan is occupied by young people!

Sweet wheels
Sweet wheels